How to prepare a SmartDocuments document for an information request

How to prepare a SmartDocuments document for an information request Banner

When, as a government agency, you disclose a document in response to a request for information (or FOIA request), you protect the sensitive information in that document. With documents created using SmartDocuments, you may also need to remove certain data. How do you make these documents free of confidential data without having to read through them and manually remove this data? We have developed a solution within SmartDocuments for this purpose!

Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) establishes the right of information regarding all government activities. If you work at a public authority, then you are probably familiar with the fact that when a request for information is made, not all information can be made public. The law therefore defines exceptions, such as cases involving personal data or state secrets. In this blog you will read how to make certain information non-legible using SmartDocuments, enabling government agencies to comply with the FOIA.

Creating documents with SmartDocuments

With SmartDocuments, you create documents based on smart templates. The template builder in your organization sets up the template and ensures all the settings are correct. End users then create a document using our Wizard. Or perhaps SmartDocuments is integrated with other systems in your organization, which populate the document template with the correct data. In either case, after generating a document, it is ready for the next step in the process, such as storage in your case system or DMS, or dispatch through a service portal.

Anonymizing in two steps

At some point in the future, a request for information may require a document to be anonymized. With SmartDocuments, you anonymize a document in two steps: first, the template builder adds anonymization capability to a document template; later, the end user offers the assembled document for anonymization, after which the document is anonymized. Let’s dive into how these two steps are performed.

Step 1: Setting up the document template

First, let's address building the template. Preparing documents for an information request, starts within SmartDocuments by setting up, creating or modifying a document template. This can be done by selecting specific elements or by anonymizing all data (the variables). If you choose the latter, simply check the ‘Prepare DOCX for anonymization’ box in our SmartControl management interface. This setting can be applied to a single template, all templates in a template group, or for all templates of a specific user or user group. With this choice, all variables contained in the document will be blacked out during the anonymization process.

Anonymizing specific fields in a document is accomplished through our SmartEditor, where the content of the template is built. You select the desired fields and mark them in SmartEditor with the anonymize tool.

Once the document template is prepared and published, end users can use it to create documents. Initially, these documents do not display any anonymized content; anonymization occurs later upon request. However, in the generated document the (selected) variables are fixed. This means they cannot be modified or removed. This is beneficial, because our anonymization application accurately identifies the information requiring anonymization. It also means that our functionality only works for documents created with SmartDocuments, with a document template configured in one of the described methods.

Step 2: Anonymizing a SmartDocuments’ document

A FOIA request has been submitted inquiring about the content of a document. Has this document been created with a SmartDocuments template that has been prepared for anonymization? Then, you can begin the anonymization process. To do this, you go to our online environment, the starting point for document creation. Here you offer the document in our anonymization application and select the desired file format. The result is a DOCX, PDF, HTML or ODT file in which the (selected) variables are replaced with a black bar. This bar has a fixed size, to ensure nothing can be derived from it. The remaining content of the document remains unchanged. The anonymized document is now finished!

Perhaps you are curious what we mean by 'variables' and whether truly everything is anonymized when we talk about 'all variables'. Or maybe you want to know if we have thought about the digital accessibility of documents anonymized with our application? You can read about it in our complementary blog ‘Anonymizing digitally accessible documents with SmartDocuments’.

Wondering what that anonymizing with SmartDocuments looks like? Our representatives are happy to demo it for you. Contact us for a demo!